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SeaViews: Insights from the Gray Havens
April 1997

(formerly the _Rochester Rag_, formerly the _News from Detroit_)

Motto: The surest way to get a reputation for being a trouble maker these days is to go about repeating the very phrases that the Founders used in the struggle for independance.

-- C.A. Beard


Steve Langer
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On last month's Fix;

the answer to last month's Fix,

 "Should people who live in areas that are known to be frequented
by natural disasters (floods, hurricanes, drought, etc) continue to expect 
the Federal govt. to bail them out?"

No. Two years ago, California passed a couch potato tax that punishes those who eat fatty potato chips and other TV snacks. The goal is to discourage the consumption of unhealthy foods. Everyone is familiar with the sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco. Lawsuits are under way throughout the country to make tobacco companies, not the govt., assume the costs of lung cancer health care. Examples are rife where the govt. tries negative reinforcement in the form of taxes to steer public behavior. So why prop up urban populations, in disaster prone areas, and use public money to pay for those disasters?

Note this is not is not to say that the people along SD-MN Red River should not see some help. Their region has not seen a flood of this magnitude for (supposedly) 500 years. But for people who live along coastal areas of the East Coast's hurricane ally, on known earthquake faults, or regular river flood plains, they should either obtain insurance - or accept govt. bailouts with the proviso that they will be relocated to safer ground.

On Unions, Pride and a Phone;

This week, Sheryl has been visiting in the Great NW, and despite my intention of sneeking off to enjoy some time with her, a series of disasters prevented it. First off, I should say that the only other physicist has been gone this week, hence your's truly has been covering three simultaneous installations, in three different hospitals, separated by 20 miles. Now in some places, where some actual planning had gone into these projects, this would not neccesarily have been as bad as it has in fact turned out to be. Here, it was panic stations.

I have learned several things from the past 2 weeks. First off, union workers here are at least as lazy as in Detroit. Second, when you ask a Networking, Telecomm or Electrician tech to "install" a line, you must also request (and perhaps pay extra for) testing that the installed service in fact actually works. Third, don't be impressed when during your job interview they say; Finally, be very afraid when everyone schedules their vacations during the installs.

The last word? You'll really like this. I was told Friday that the first week in May (when I start teaching), the state will be inspecting the U, and the first week in June (when I'll be getting married) the inspector will be at the new hospital, for which we have no test data on the new machines. And if we fail, the state can close us down.

Guest Editorial:

Sheryl submits this, to cap off our recent religios discussions.

Survey: Many Scientists Belive in God
by Natalie Angler of the New York Times

Many scientists believe in God by the most mainstream definition of the concept. Repeating a famous survey first conducted in 1916, Ed Larson of the U of Georgia has found that faith among scientists has not budged regardless of the scientific advances of this century.

Then as now, 40% of responding biologists, physicists and mathemeticians said they believed in a God who, by the survey's strict definition, communicates with human kind and to whom one may pray in expectation of an answer. In both surveys, about 15% claimed to be agnostic or have no definite beief. About 42% in both said they did not believe in a God as specified by the survey, but whether they believed in some other form of deity was not addressed.

The figure of true believers is much lower than that usually cited for Americans as a whole. Gallop polls often show 93%. But given the survey's exceedingly restrictive definition of God - narrower than the Gallop polls - and scientists tendency to say exactly what they mean and nothing more, the 40% figure is impressively high.

More revealing, say experts, is the stability of the results. The fact that scientist's private beliefs remained stable across a century defined by change suggest that orthodox religion is no rarer among the intellectual elite than among the general public. The survey appears in this month's issue of Nature.

Larson did not survey the particular creed, he merely wanted to see what has happened in the 80 plus years since the renowned psychiatrist James Leuba asked 1000 randomly selected scientists if they believed in God. An atheist, Leuba predicted that doubts of God would grow as eduction spread, and Larson wanted to use Leuba's exact methods to see if the prediction has held up.


1. Doug Wilken writes;
Date: Tue, 22 Apr 1997 08:52:07 -0500
From: Doug Wilken 

Dear Steve,

In response to your question 

"Should people who live in areas known for their natural disasters
 continue to get federal funds for recovery?"

My first inclination is to note that just about anywhere can easily
become a natural disaster.  Think of tornado alley between the
Rockies and the Appalachians.  :)

I see no harm in federally assisting such recoveries.  Just don't
call it a constitutional right.


Quotes(s) of the month:

Well, this is more of a story than a quote.

 A guy was flying in a helicopter when the pilot lost all electronic 
navigation. It being Seattle, there was a dense fog. The pilot admitted
he was lost and flew to the nearest visible landmark - a skyscraper - in the
hope that he could get bearings to the airport. The pilot asked the passenger 
to make a sign and hold it up so the office workers could see it. It said, 
"Where are we?"

 The office workers scribbled for a bit, then held up their own sign. It
said, "You're in a helicopter."

 The pilot chuckled, turned left and flew directly to the airport.

 Amazed, the passenger asked how the pilot did it.

 "I knew that we were at the Microsoft campus," he said.

 "How could you tell that ?"

  "Who else would give you a technically correct, but totally worthless 

Fix of the month:

"What does (or would) motivate you to take on some voluntary public service?"



1. April 25, Olympia: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has succeeded in buying off the state govt. His offer to buy the financially shaky Seattle Seahawks was to be withdrawn at the end of this month, if the State Legis. did not provide him with free downtown real-estate to build a new stadium on. The Legis. struck an alternative deal in which they will rush to hold a statewide referendum on the stadium, sometime in the next three weeks. Normally, the process to hold a referendum takes months and only occurs during the next Nov. election. However, Allen's "emergency request" upped the date.

If approved as written, the referendum would demolish the existing outdoor stadium, and built two replacements: a covered one and an outdoor one (to play baseball in on clear days). The real estate and construction costs would be covered by King County tax hikes. Allen would merely agree to buy the team.

Ed: Wouldn't it be nice to say, "I'll buy that car if you pay the taxes, insurance, fuel and maintenance?"


1. April 22, The Citadel: The formerly all male military academy, which only accepted women two years ago, stood down from classes today so that students could attend sensitivity training. It was felt that hazing, which was a tradition at the Citadel for over a century, could no longer continue. The cadets are also to be tought "how to respect the differences" of their female classmates.


1. Fort Davis, April 25: Once again, Texas is host to a standoff between opponents of the govt. and the FBI (and possibly BATF). The Republic of Texas, a group which has long advocated the secession of Texas from the Union (and in fact calls into question whether Texas ever legally entered the US), sparked the siege in the west Texas wilderness when they took a man and wife hostage last week.

The encircling police have repeatedly told reporters that, "This will not be another Waco", but at least to 13 ton armored personnel carriers have been devlivered by the Natl. Guard (in a move that probably violates the Posse Commatatis Act).

RIchard McLaren, the Republic's leader, claims to have already filed papers with the U.N. that he represents a separate country, and as such considers his group to be at war with the US law enforcement. He also claims to have stashed several tanker trucks of gasoline around the compound, which he will use to start a giant wild fire if attacked.

Washington D.C.;

1. April 29: Congress has decided to call Janet Reno to testify as to why she finds no reason to call a speacial prosecutor in to investigate DNC fund raising irregularities during the last election.

2. April 28: A TV special was aired starring Tom Hanks (plus an all star cast including Robin Williams, Rob Reiner, Colin Powell and Bill and Hillary Clinton) which extolled the virtues of volunteers in public service. This show follows on the heels of Powell's announcement of his plan to cooperate with the Clinton's on boosting community volunteer efforts for sanitation, policing, teaching, and other tasks. The message seems to be that people are not volunteering enough, and if they would, many more problems could be solved.

Ed: Actually, it is a fact that volunterism reached an all time high under the Reagen administration circa 1986-87. About the time G. Bush was making his "thousand points of light" comment, the numbers were already declining.

I would make two observations on this. First, when people are being taxed at higher and higher rates, they have to work harder to care for themselves and have less time to volunteer. Second, since we are being taxed more, what has the money bought? Aren't teachers supposed to teach and policepersons police?. If the govt. is willing to admit that it's programs have failed, and will drop taxes if volunteers take up the tasks, then we'd have something to talk about.


1. April 30, NPR: Hearing a crash and the crunch of broken glass, Mrs. Olson called the police. The police arrived to find a man breaking into the retired woman's home, along with his 4 year old son. It was "Take your son to work day."

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